Yesterday marked the beginning of my fall semester as I slog my way towards my BA. So far, so great. My first course is a gender studies class that examines women intellectuals, writers, and scholars from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. (It’s also my first gender studies course in ten years — long overdue.) Looking around the room as the two-hour class came to an end, I noticed something peculiar: there was nary a dude in sight. I mentioned this to a friend and classmate on our way out, and she commented that maybe any prospective male students would feel intimidated. I suppose she could be right, but what logic is there in being intimidated by studying the intellectual accomplishments of women and reading works by everyone from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to Laura Ingalls Wilder? It’s terribly frustrating, to be honest.
On the bright side, my class looks great and I’m happy that it’s definitely not wanting in attendance. Still, where are the guys? Is it really too much to hope that there might be a man out there who recognizes that studying women’s intellectual history and the broader implications in world history is something that does not need to be limited to students who lack Y chromosomes. SarahMC kindly pointed me to an NPR interview in which Bonnie Morris, a professor of women’s studies at George Washington University, speaks plainly about the stereotypes attached to that field of study. The interview, conducted by Bob Edwards, talks a great deal about feminism, and that’s when it struck me that not once during my class yesterday did I remember hearing that F word — which, in the context of what the course covers, makes sense. But was the mere possibility of discussing feminism in an academic context too much for some of my male counterparts? Did they see the course title (Gender and Knowledge) and expect it to be all about man-bashing instead of history? It’s worth noting that the course is actually within the history department, as there is no women’s studies/gender studies department at my college
So if any of our male readers stumble upon this post, I’d love to know if you have ever taken a women’s studies/gender studies course. If not, was it because it was not offered at your school or because you felt you might be out of place taking that course?